Bread – Baby I’m-A Want You – Check Out Those Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Bread’s fourth album has wonderfully sweet and rich 1972 ANALOG sound. The acoustic guitars are to die for on the title track. Talk about Tubey Magic, this copy has got bucketfuls of it on the voices and guitars. Whatever happened to that sound I wonder?

Listen for the delicate space up high above the music on the title track. This copy has the extended top end that opens up the sound and lets the music breathe.

The average copy is dull, compressed, congested and squawky in the midrange, all good reasons that explain why we simply haven’t been able to do many of Bread’s albums outside of the Greatest Hits and the first album. Most copies are so bad sounding that it seems pointless to even try — pointless only until a copy like this comes along to make us (and other Bread fans) believers. 

Pure Pop For Now People

When you hear music sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. This is in fact the primary raison d’etre of this audiophile hobby, or at least it’s supposed to be. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to quote the famous wag Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate music that came out close to forty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself “What has gone wrong with popular recordings for the last three or four decades?”

I can’t think of one recording of the last twenty years that sounds as good as this Bread album. Are there any?

Analog Heaven

In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the acoustic guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic– that sound knocked me out twenty plus years ago, and here it is again! Of course I’m a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then this will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.

Pay close attention to the sound of the drums, which are especially solid on this pressing. We really like the way famous session player Mike Botts’ kit is recorded, not to mention his Hal-Blaine-like — which means god-like — drumming skills.

Side One

A++, Super Hot. Rich but a bit of smear and hardness in the midrange holds it back from our top grade.

Note that the first track always sounds fuller and richer than the second. Finding the right balance between them is key.

Side Two

Side two is almost as good with a grade of A+ to A++. It too has a little smear on the transients, and it can get congested when loud. It’s musical and enjoyable though.

The Average Copy is SO BAD

It’s shocking how bad the average copy of this record is. You would never know it had any hope of being the magical sounding record that this one is!

An Endless Supply

Audiophiles with high quality turntables have a literally endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you own, you can’t have more than scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last fifty years. That’s the positive thought for the day. We here at Better Records are happy to help you in your quest to find recordings that do justice to the music you have yet to hear.

One further note. Records like this can only get better. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings flooding the market these days, exemplifying the kind of phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound we decry at every turn.

If you make a change in your stereo and this record sound better, more than likely you did the right thing.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Mother Freedom 
Baby I’m-A Want You
Down on My Knees 
Everything I Own 
Nobody Like You 
Diary

Side Two

Dream Lady 
Daughter 
Games of Magic 
This Isn’t What the Governmeant 
Just Like Yesterday 
I Don’t Love You

Rolling Stone Review

On this their fourth album, Bread has finally learned to checker-board their serious-romantic style with a comic-romantic one. They alternate fast songs with slow ones and in doing so help to get the overall effect of expression in-the-round, which their earlier albums lacked. “This Isn’t What the Governmeant” may not be romantic, “Down on My Knees” may not be comic, and “Mother Freedom” certainly attempts to be neither, but even these songs help to generate the alternating-current energy of the album.

The very first notes of “Mother Freedom,” the opening song, come by way of a raunchy, buzzing electric guitar to tell you that Bread mean to serve themselves with enough grit to compensate for the upcoming molasses. Little extra vocal touches, such as David Gates’ near falsetto on the work “smack” and the muleskinner’s heeyawh someone throws in during the repeat of “Freedom — keep tryin’,” add to “Mother Freedom,” and are indicative of the care which all the vocals on the album have been delivered.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how David Gates came up with a title like “Baby I’m-A Want You” and all I can figure is that either he just had bad need of an extra syllable, or he was making some sort of phonetic tribute to Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” There are no striking similarities between those two songs in particular, but clearly Gates as a songwriter and singer owes a great deal to McCartney. Melodically and vocally Gates approaches the best of his love songs with a freshness that makes him, as did the early and middle McCartney, sound like he’s never ever said before those words “he’s longed to say.” Even when the ballads on their album are suffused with the passion of unrequited love, Bread never forces their feelings upon you. They have developed an undefinable taste, or class, whatever you want to call it, which was totally absent in such vile past music of theirs as “Make It With You.”

Of course, even though inoffensive, some of their present love songs also just don’t make it. “Diary,” with its bland melody and an instrument which sounds like it’s either an electric jew’s harp or underwater, is a melodramatic piece about a fellow who finds and misinterprets the diary of the girl he’s in love with, and like a character in an early Gide novel, he pledges his life to her nevertheless. Whereas Gates’ ballads have an all-or-nothing extravagance about them, Jimmy Griffin’s are comparatively cautious. Since his songs don’t go for broke, he, unlike Gates, doesn’t risk an occasional disaster for the sake of a big winner like Gates’ “Everything I Own.”
The way Bread performs “Down On My Knees” is strongly reminiscent of the exuberant rockers of the Beatles pre-Revolver days, notably in the back-up harmonies, the use of both guitars besides the bass as rhythm instruments, the twenty second guitar solos, and the chord build-up in the finale. Griffin’s lead vocals on that song, “I Don’t Love You,” and “Nobody Like You” display a styling which shines with rugged, self-confident and humorous character. With “Nobody Like You” he really steals the show singing lines like “While other people dancin’ romancin’ and chancin’/Their lives every Saturday night/Watchin’ TV drinkin’ tea, her and me/And maybe even have us a fight/’Cause an argument can be outta sight/When you love to argue and you know how to fight,” Griffin, singing a lot like Leon Russell, backs up Gates who is singing at his finest on “Daughter,” and their interplaying vocals, together with the rocking piano and another hot guitar mini-solo, make this song one of the best on the album.

Bread has turned into one fine band of musicians. Even though it’s placed in the background, Larry Knetchel’s keyboard work always finds a way to stand out. As a drummer Mike Botts plays in the traditional rock group manner, solidly, carefully, distinctively. Baby I’m-A Want You is a full-bodied album, exuding health and vigor even in the thick of its most exaggerated sentimentality. The alternation of song styles produces a result which is often as tasty as good sweet and sour pork. It may not be a great album, or even a major one, but it’s very heartening all the same.

– David Lubin, Rolling Stone, 3-30-72.

Here’s what the All Music Guide had to say about the first album, which applies equally well to most of their early material:

This is effectively the birth of Californian soft rock, as David Gates and compatriots blend the folk-rock of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield with a distinctly British melodicism and a streak of sentimentality borrowed from McCartney. The result is a modest little gem, with more strange turns than you’d expect from their reputation — including soaring falsettos, spiraling melodies, rough guitars, and, best of all, a set of tightly-written, appealing songs.

Overall Sonic Grade:

Side One – A++
Side Two – A+ to A++
Vinyl Grade:

1) mostly Mint Minus
2) mostly Mint Minus with a lightly ticky intro

Cover Grade: 8 out of 10

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